Chilmark selectmen Frank Fenner and Warren Doty said a fond farewell Tuesday to their colleague J.B. Riggs Parker. Sentiment and good wishes aside, Mr. Parker maintained the steely conservatism that characterized his six-year tenure on the board.
Following an exchange of gracious remarks, Mr. Parker, chairman of the board for another few days, clashed with Lenny Jason, an assessor, over the authority of the assessors to hire employees without approval from the selectmen.
Mr. Jason insisted his board had not gone to the selectmen in the past. Mr. Parker insisted the selectmen are the appointing authority and must be responsible for hires. The selectmen agreed to Mr. Jason’s request to seek an opinion from town counsel.
Then there was a request from the assessors to change the pay grade of Pamela Bunker, assistant assessor, from grade nine to ten, representing a $1,100 increase in annual salary.
Prefacing his remarks with praise for Ms. Bunker, Mr. Parker said singling one person out, rather than looking at the entire pay matrix, could create a domino effect. “I am personally concerned about grade creep, because I am concerned about the budget,” he said.
Mr. Fenner disagreed. He said the personnel board had reviewed the change and recommended it, and the selectmen should rely on the town board charged with that responsibility.
Put to a vote, Mr. Doty and Mr. Fenner voted in favor of the grade change. Hearing “nay,” Mr. Jason asked Mr. Parker if he had voted no.
“No,” Mr. Parker said. “It’s a matter of principle, and I’m sticking with my conservative fiscal principles.”
On one matter, signing two ground leases in the Middle Line Road affordable housing project, the three selectmen agreed. Chip and Michelle Leonardi and Cameron Parry presented the selectmen with checks for $20,000 and signed 99-year ground leases that will allow them to begin construction.
Selectmen also discussed briefly policies governing the use of the Chilmark Community Center. They agreed to make no major changes but did agree on the need to be certain that there is a responsible party and that alcohol use is controlled.